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Chanticleer and the Fox – 1959 Caldecott Medal Book

Chanticleer-and-the-fox“Chanticleer and the Fox”, an adaptation from The Canterbury Tales, and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, received the 1959 Caldecott Medal.  This charming book reminded my children of some of the many Aesop’s Fables that they have heard.  I particularly enjoyed that the wit and wisdom of the story’s rooster triumphed over the sly fox.

Caldecott Criteria:

  1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Pictures in primarily black and white with occasional accents in red, green, blue, yellow, and brown allow for eye-catching illustrations.  Extensive details are evident, my favorite of which are the thatching on the roof and the bee hives in one scene.
  1. Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The story can be followed easily through the pictures.
  1. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”– The illustrative style used in this book elicits the “Old World” setting of  Chaucer and the prototypical Aesop-like fable.
  1. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, characters, setting, and information are very clear throughout the book.
  1. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.”– My children enjoyed this book, but I believe it was more for the charm of the story than for the pictures.  Details in the illustrations, however, could be used to discuss many aspects of farm life.

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Blueberries for Sal – 1949 Caldecott Honor Book

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, a 1949 Caldecott Honor Book, sweetly tells the story of a little girl and her mother who take a trip to pick blueberries.  As they are busy picking and lost in their own thoughts, they meet a mother bear and her cub grazing on the same hill’s delicious berries.
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Amazing, single-tone­ drawings with so many details that the reader could spend a long time looking at each picture, but simple enough that a very young child could enjoy each scene.  (This is not a complete sentence – do you want to have all complete sentences for consistency?  How about:  The amazing, single-tone­ drawings abound with so many details that the reader could spend a long time looking at each picture, yet the illustrations are simple enough for even a very young child’s being able enjoy each scene.)
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The story is easy to understand through the pictures.  I find it fun that the line drawings are all in a dark blue exactly the color of ripe, juicy blueberries.
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – The post-World War II car, 1940’s clothing, and the discussion of canning blueberries lend an old-fashioned feel to the story.  On top of this, the characters’ facial expressions clearly depict the love and concern of a mother for her child, as well as the curiosity of a young child.
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Each of these aspects of the story are obvious in the pictures, but the mood and characters are my favorite parts of this book.
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children have enjoyed this book over and over via audio book, as well as in the written format.

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Little Lost Lamb – 1945 Caldecott Book

Little Lost Lamb by Golden MacDonald (an pen name for Margaret Wise Brown) and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard received a Caldecott Honor in 1945.  The storyline, easy to guess from the title, follows a young shepherd and his flock high into the mountains, where a black lamb wanders away from the flock.  As night falls, the boy tries to find the lost creature, but he must also take the other sheep to safety.  Unable to sleep, he sets out in the darkness to find the young lamb.  Before he finds his charge, his dog chases away a crouching mountain lion.  Finally, all is safe as the shepherd carries the lamb down the mountainside.
 
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – I find the watercolor pictures in this book to be simple, but detailed enough to be very interesting.  I enjoyed the varied colors used during the daytime scenes as well as the excellent use of shading to achieve a twilight feeling for the night scenes.
 
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The illustrations make the story very easy to follow.
 
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  The style is exactly as I would imagine for a mountainous scene filled with sheep and trees.
 
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, characters, and setting are made clear through the pictures.  The mood, though, could have been more obviousby the use of other facial expressions, or maybe a colorful scene at the end to portray happiness when the lamb is found.
 
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children and I all enjoyed this feel-good book.

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Timothy Turtle – 1947 Caldecott Honor Book

Timothy TurtleTimothy Turtle, a 1947 Caldecott Honor Book, was written by Al Graham and illustrated by Tony Palazzo.  Timothy, the successful owner of a ferry landing, yearns for fame and excitement.  When his friends encourage his desire for adventure he sets out to climb a nearby hill – a daunting quest for a turtle.  Upon his journey a rock falls on him and causes him to land on his back.  After much concern and movement he is able to flip upright and begins to make his way home.  When he reaches the bottom of the hill, he is greeted by his friends who are cheering for him.  He realizes that he really is content with his peaceful life on the river.

 

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – The ink line drawings with chalk background of blue and peach on alternating pages are amazingly detailed.  The lines on the turtle’s back, the duck’s feathers, and the pine tree were particularly interesting to look at.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The story is easy to follow through the pictures.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  These illustrations are exactly as I would imagine a turtle might see in the world around him from his perspective.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – All of the characters, setting, and plot were easy to understand through the illustrations.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children liked the pictures in this book as well as the overall story, but some of the old-fashioned language was difficult for all of us to follow.

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Aesop’s Fables

Aesop's FablesWe recently finished reading a compilation of Aesop’s Fables.  So much wisdom is packed into each concise story that we had to take reading this one slowly so I could make sure that my older girls really understood the meaning behind the stories.  I knew for sure that at least something had sunk in thanks to my 4-year old’s responses to me when I fussed at her for dragging out her chores.  She said, “Mom, slow and steady wins the race!”  Her excuse did make me giggle!

Pros: A group of stories that can be read in shorter spurts, so are suitable for a wide variety of ages.  I enjoyed that every story is different – funny, sobering, or exciting – yet, they all teach a valuable lesson.

Cons: After reading more than 100 pages of this book some of the stories started to sound alike.  I found that I would skip to the end of each and review the moral to the story to see if it was overly similar to ones we had already read.

Age Range: 3-Adult

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A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman

A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman opened up a new way of thinking for my children.  The premise of this book is that everything is a house for something else, everyone has a house of their own, and that the world is where we all belong.  Thinking of earmuffs, books, and castles all as houses was intriguing and fun.  We had a great time continuing to think of other houses and their occupants after we finished this book and during the entire family meal which followed!A House is a House for Me

Pros: A fun way to teach children to look at the same item from various perspectives.

Cons: One page discussed four types of homes used by Native Americans.  While this was interesting and something I wanted my girls to learn, I did not like how it was presented.  On the preceding page all of the home inhabitants mentioned are animals, while on the following page they are modes of transportation, and no other homes for humans are discussed other than on this page.  To me this seemed to dehumanize Native Americans.  Usually I can easily overlook this type of issue or see it as a view common in the era of the book, but not so in this case.  Still, overall, this book is worth reading and this one page could easily be skipped.

Age Range: 3-8

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My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World – 1946 Caldecott Honor Book

My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the WorldBy the time we are reading this, our forty-first Caldecott book, it has become clear to me that people of the 1940’s must have been very intrigued with other cultures and countries since so many award-winning books written during that period have these common themes.  My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, written by Becky Reyher and illustrated by Ruth Gannett, is a retelling of a Russian folktale.  In this story a little girl gets lost during a harvest-time feast.  When asked about her parents all she can say is that her mother is “the most beautiful woman in the world.”  The villagers sort through all of the gorgeous women nearby for the child’s mother, but are surprised when they find that her mother is a rather homely looking lady.  In the end, the mother tells her daughter that she is happy that her daughter sees beauty not only with her eyes, but also with her heart.

 

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Stippling and pointillism, a painting technique in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointillism), are used throughout this book.  While I did not find these illustrations particularly beautiful, they are artistically detailed, and maybe that is the point given the storyline.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – While I did not find these illustrations particularly dazzling, they are artistically detailed, and maybe that is the point given the storyline.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  A peasant Russian style is evident throughout the story.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Each one of these literary aspects is clearly defined through the illustrations.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – When I asked my oldest daughter if she liked this book she very nostalgically replied, “Yeah, the pictures are pretty.”

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